Sunday, June 19, 2011
Perry's Prayer Rally and its Controversial Supporters
The Response Promo from The Response USA on Vimeo.
On August 6th, Reliant Stadium in Houston, TX will be the site of a Christian prayer rally that will beseech Jesus to guide America through its recent troubles. In the above promotional video, men and women list problems such as economic collapse, natural disasters, terrorism, and "perversion" (!) as the burdens facing the American people, necessitating a prayerful response. The Response rally, spearheaded by Texas governor Rick Perry, has attracted media and blog attention because of its controversial supporters.
According to the rally website, the Response leadership team includes staff from the International House of Prayer (a ministry with ties to anti-gay preacher Lou Engle) and the American Family Association (categorized as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center). Also featured on the leadership team is Jim Garlow, a San Diego megachurch pastor who likened gay marriage to an "Antichrist spirit" and claimed that Satan is attacking the institution of marriage, according to Right Wing Watch.
Among the rally's official endorsers are right-wing historian David Barton, New Apostolic Reformation preacher Cindy Jacobs, IHOP director Mark Bickle, and Pastor John Hagee. David Barton has been accused of promoting revisionist history by critics; Cindy Jacobs has made homophobic and Christian chauvinist statements; and John Hagee is remembered for describing Hurricane Katrina as divine retribution against New Orleans for planning a gay pride parade. In short, the rally has a significant New Apostolic Reformation presence, with several leaders and supporters who espouse homophobic views.
The alarming details of this rally have not gone unnoticed by progressive observers.
- The June 10th edition of The Rachel Maddow Show featured an interview with journalist Wayne Slater, who said that Gov. Perry is "comfortable" allying with right-wing Christian groups.
- Bill Maher delivered a sarcastic, hard-hitting commentary on Gov. Perry and the Response rally on a recent edition of Real Time.
- In response to a statement from Response spokesman Eric Bearse, People for the American Way president Michael Keegan accused Gov. Perry of using his official position to convert others to Christianity, urging Perry to remove his name from the Response rally.
- GetEQUAL has circulated an online petition urging Gov. Perry to exclude the American Family Association and any other hate groups from the Response rally.
- In a June 13th statement, the Houston Clergy Council criticized the Response rally for its affiliation with the American Family Association, voicing concerns over church-state separation and inclusiveness.
- Finally, several groups plan to host a "Pray Away the Hate" protest outside of Reliant Stadium on August 6th, according to the Texas Independent.
I find the organizations and people behind the Response rally worrisome, as their involvement indicates that far-right voices are becoming increasingly welcome in some political circles. If Slater is correct and Gov. Perry does indeed know what he is doing by involving himself with these forces, what does that say about his political priorities? What does it say about how he views LGBT and non-Christian constituents? What messages will be promoted at the Response, given the organizations and people working behind the scenes? This rally warrants attention by Texans, as well as political observers across the U.S.
To read more about the Response rally, visit theresponseusa[dot]com. For additional news and commentary, visit the following links.
HRC Back Story: Texas Religious Leaders Speak Out Against Perry’s Anti-LGBT Prayer Service
Right Wing Watch: Fact Sheet: Gov. Rick Perry's Extremist Allies
Religion Dispatches: The View from a Jew at a “Solemn Assembly” Like Rick Perry’s
The Advocate: Rick Perry Unleashes Nondefense of Prayer Rally
American Independent: Jewish lawmaker ‘disappointed’ that Perry has allied himself with ‘exclusionary’ AFA